Known among colleagues as the ‘Laird of Lewd’ for the surprising number of erotic works he has unearthed for auction in recent times, Jim Spencer, the book specialist at Hansons (20% buyer’s premium), has underlined that talent once again.
This time it was a rare pocket guide to London’s prostitutes which was offered as part of the opening book section of the December 12-13 sale held in Bishton Hall, Staffordshire.
The Man of Pleasure’s Illustrated Pocket Book for 1850… sold for a much higher than predicted £4000.
This work contains 50 sketches and descriptions of ladies of the night, complete with notes on their specialities and attractions.
Disguised in a wallet-style binding, this …Complete and Gentlemanly Night Guide makes use of coded language and assorted equestrian and seafaring terms in its descriptions of the particular attractions and accomplishments of the ladies of the night who grace its pages.
Here, for the sake of decency, I shall quote just one of the more restrained of those passages drawn to my attention by the saleroom.
It concerns a Miss Fowler, who “…when stepping into a cab or coach, makes the most of her leg; and in an omnibus generally sets fire to all male passengers, so that you see them fidgeting and adjusting their rebellious members the rest of the journey”.
On a more sobering note, this rarity also features a section on ‘The Health of the Man of Pleasure’ that offers descriptions of sexually transmitted diseases and precautions to be taken – among them some unlikely home remedies.
This rarity had been estimated at just £300-500 in acknowledgement of its lack of covers and somewhat stained condition.
The celebrated Sally
Bid to £750 in a North Yorkshire sale of December 4 was a copy of the Authentick Memoirs of the Life, Intrigues and Adventures of the Celebrated Sally Salisbury, an 18th century work prompted by a trial that in London at least became a passing scandal of the age.
Offered by Tennants (20% buyer’s premium) of Leyburn, this 1723 work by a Captain Charles Walker concerns the life and times of a prostitute said to have been dearly loved by her many influential patrons.
They reportedly included among their ranks “at least half a score” of lords, many politicians and perhaps the future George II.
Sally nevertheless ended her days in Newgate prison after stabbing one of her clients, John Finch, a politician and son of the 2nd Earl of Nottingham. The attack took place in the Three Tuns tavern in Covent Garden following an argument regarding the disposition of some opera tickets.
At Sally’s trial the courtroom was packed with notables of London society but her counsel failed to get her off the charge and she was sentenced to a year in prison. Even then she continued to receive visitors who brought her luxury goods and made sure that she was comfortable.
There, however, she is said to have succumbed to “brain fever brought on by debauch” and it seems most likely that syphilis brought about her demise nine months later.
Sally is also considered a possible inspiration for Moll Hackabout in William Hogarth’s Harlot’s Progress set of paintings and prints.